Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Shepard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shepard. Show all posts

06 August, 2017

Sam Shepard, "Cruising Paradise"

The narrator and his buddy, Crewlaw, cruise out to Azusa where Crewlaw's dad burned to death in a fire started by his smoking in bed. Crewlaw uses the pretense that his friend doesn't believe him but Crewlaw probably needs to see for himself and/or for some sort of closure. We do not learn whether or not there had already been a funeral. The setting is very visual and immediate. It's told in first-person POV which assists in the sense of immediacy and reality.

"We drove out to Azusa on Highway 66 in Crewlaw's '48 Mercury with gray-primered skirts and parked on a gravel lot beside the Jupiter Motel, one of those quasi-Spanish-stucco courtyard jobs with a dead fountain in the middle and no customers."

For me, the theme is about living and how no matter the style of living you choose to do, it's living and also that no matter what you do, time passes and life happens and it ends.

"'What was he doing way out here?'
'Living. What do you think he was doing?'"

Later, Aunt Mellie said.
"'He's run flat out of tomorrows!'"

"'Believe you me. Things happen before you even know it.'"

Crewlaw insists on showing his friend, the narrator, the mattress his father died in. They find it and dump it into the Flood Control Aqueduct and set it on fire.

"'Now he's all the way gone.'"

At the bottom of the embankment, the mattress lands on an old washing machine. There's water and fire, baptism or cleansing and funeral pyre.

The title is reiterated in this line. "I had a definite sense of somehow being a passenger in an evil vehicle cruising through Paradise."

The story takes place in about 1957. Crewlaw's car is a '48 Mercury that already has already been primed. The movie Jailhouse Rock premiered in late 1957.

Shepard wrote the short story March 5, 1989 in Los Angeles. The collection Cruising Paradise: Tales was published in 1996.

13 May, 2014

Jim Shepard, "The World to Come"

Number 161 from One Story is a great story by Jim Shepard, "The World to Come." It is written in a diary format, takes place in 1856, rural upstate New York. The narrator, whose name we never learn, writes in her diary every Sunday from January to June. Toward the end of the story when tragedy strikes, she writes a little more irregularly.

The narrator, married to Dyer, and her friend Tallie, married to Finney, fall in love. Mixed in with the hardships of the time period, living in a rural setting, illnesses and accidents is a forbidden love, and ultimately murder.

"The World to Come" was also published in the 2013 edition of Best American Short Stories.

23 March, 2012

Jim Shepard, "Cretan Love Song, 1600 B.C."

Shepard wrote a one-page story about the Minoan tsunami that killed a father and son. It's written in second-person POV which makes the events happen to the reader. The story takes place in modern times, "...all of Manhattan...," but you the reader are told to "Imagine you're part of the Minoan civilization, just hanging out..." I think the strength of this story is the viewpoint of the coming wave through the eyes of the narrator. "At sixty miles away it already appears an inch tall." The narrator knows death is imminent even as he and his son attempt to run home. The theme, for me, is that while we tend to think we can better ourselves forever, there is indeed an end to that hopeful plan.

06 June, 2011

Jim Shepard, "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You"

“Your Fate Hurtles Down at You” is based on historical people, a team of avalanche researchers in the late 1930s in Switzerland. I love the title

acknowledging that our fate hurtles towards us like an avalanche. The descriptions of snow crystal formation are captivating. Avalanches are just not something I’ve ever considered in an historical context and I’m happy this story has corrected that.

I’m not sure the role of Ruth Lindner was necessary, especially the baby part. In fact, I think she cluttered the story a bit. The relationship of the narrator and his brother, Willi, along with that of their mother I think was quite sufficient. The coincidence of Ruth being present when Eckel fell on the ice outside the bakery was unbelievable for me and distracted me from the theme of the story of fate hurtling towards a person. The baby part was fate hurtling towards Willi and Willi is not the focus of the story.

All in all, I liked the story very much but found it took extra effort on my part to remain in the story when it deviated from the avalanche research team and Willi, Eckel, and their mother.

The story was first published in Electric Literature and subsequently selected for inclusion in the 2011 PEN / O'Henry Prize Stories, one of my favorite anthologies.

Jim Shepard's web page
Wikipedia entry
SUNY, New York State Writers Institute web page and video clip
The Outlet, discussion about fiction that involves non-fiction
Random House page

12 February, 2010

Eudora Welty, "Why I Live at the P.O." and Karen Shepard, "There Be Monsters"

Listened to a 1953 recording of Eudora Welty reading her short story, "Why I Live at the PO." I was surprised that she read it so quickly almost without pausing at the commas.

Read short story, "There Be Monsters," by Karen Shepard published in Volume 11 Number 2 edition of Tin House. It is written in 3rd person shifting POV, present tense. It explores Natalie (who appears depressed) and Lloyd's disintegrating marriage. Bringing an ex-boyfriend into their home, Natalie remembers learning how to "flying lead changes" with a horse. Natalie decides that she needs to teach her daughters how to "throw their weight," "change their lead." The theme I think is best captured in one of Shepard's sentences concerning the high school girl who committed suicide, "...the girl had tried to keep her sadness from the person she cared about most. She'd tried and failed."